One of the more overlooked cities in Spain, Valencia actually served as the Spanish capital for a brief period on two occasions. With the average year round temperature sitting at a comfortable 18°C, the city prides itself on being the birthplace of paella and offering a culture rich experience.
Things to see and do
The narrow streets of the beautiful Old Town are best navigated on foot - it's the ideal way to experience everything there is to see and discover some of the tucked away tapas bars, which serve the best and most authentic spanish foods! Plazas (squares) are scattered throughout the city, which offer the perfect spot to sit and enjoy a strong coffee, or something more refreshing if you'd prefer.
For a true market experience, be sure to visit the Central Food Market - the biggest of its kind in Europe. The building is a phenomenal attraction in itself, where the huge main hall consists of unique iron beams and intricate hand painted tiles covering the walls and ceiling. Huge windows fill every space with strong natural light, along with a stained glass dome in the roof to depict the richness Valencia's fruit. Here you can find as good as anything food related, all sold by local vendors. You'll find seasonal fruit and vegetables, plenty of fresh fish, cold meats, cheeses, baked goods, olives and lots of wine; as well as the butcher's section, a huge fishmonger displaying all the local fresh catches, and many other things. Pick up some spanish saffron (said to be the best in the world), or some of the highest quality acorn-fed Iberian ham - an absolute classic and unrivalled by any other ham you can eat.
Religious or not, Valencia Cathedral is another must-see; it boasts some phenomenal architecture dating back to the 13th century. Entry is just €7 for individuals, or a group ticket works out at €4 per head, and includes a guided audio tour with stories and history about each part of the building in a fascinating depth. The catherdral is also the home of the Holy Grail (the real one, not Monty Python's), which you can view in one of the smaller chapels. The bell tower "El Miguelete" is next door, where you can climb its 207 step spiral staircase - the panoramic views of Valencia from the top are more than worth it! Plaza de la Vírgen is a postcard worthy square just outside the cathedral, and offers a large number of cafeterias for a drink or bite to eat.
If you're into shopping, the high street (Carrer de Colón) boasts high-end stores such as Zara, Brandy Melville, United Colours of Benetton, designer cosmetics shops and many more to browse and treat yourself to something new.
What to eat
In terms of food, Spain is famous for its tapas and paella for very good reason. Try the smaller restaurants in the side streets for a more authentic experience, a place full of locals is a sure sign the food is up to spanish standards! Paella Valenciana is the local specialty, and absolutely should not be missed out on. Local tapas are another winner - instead of a full meal, try ordering a number of plates to share so you get a bit of everything. Our favourites include Croquetas de Jamón (Ham Croquettes), Calamares a la Romana (Fried Squid Rings), Boquerones en Vinagre (Anchovies Marinated in Vinegar) and Pimientos de Padrón (Padrón Peppers) - but grab anything that sounds good, as it probably will be! Small plates are inexpensive, especially in the smaller local places, so it's definitely worth getting anything that takes your fancy.
Valencia Airport is situated just 8km from the city so it's not difficult to get here; with most major airlines serving it and private jet facilities. Likewise, the port is only 6km and is a common destination for cruise ships and yachts. A taxi from the airport to the city centre will cost you about €25, or you can buy a Valencia Tourist Card - which allows you free public transport around the centre, a journey to and from the airport, as well as discounted entry into some attractions (including the cathedral).
Where to stay?
There are plenty of hotels scattered throughout the city centre, all within walking distance of the best sights. We suggest Caro Hotel, a 5* boutique housed in an old 19th century palace. With just 26 rooms, each unique and beaitfully designed, you're located right in the centre of the Old Town and just 200m from the cathedral. The luxury rooms retain the character of the original building, and a fantastic terrace offers the perfect place to unwind after a full day of exploring Valencia.
Whatever you get up to, we're sure you'll love everything this beautiful, traditional spanish city has to offer. It's the perfect short getaway for couples, families or groups of friends - it has something to please everyone.